NYLPI Leads Advocates in Critique of NYC’s Proposed Pilot of Mental Health Teams to Respond to 911 CallsNovember 18, 2020
Smart Cities Dive: NYC to pilot mental health teams as ‘default response’ to related 911 calls
By: Cailin Crowe
November 17, 2020
New York’s pilot is the city’s latest move to address demands for police reform following the police killing of George Floyd and subsequent demonstrations against systemic racism this year. The pilot’s announcement comes in the wake of the police killing of Walter Wallace Jr. in Philadelphia, a Black man who was shot and killed while having a mental health crisis.
While the pilot is a strong effort, it is not enough, said Ruth Lowenkron, director of the Disability Justice Program at New York Lawyers for the Public Interest. She expressed concern that the pilot does not include peers, or people with lived mental health experiences, as responders to those 911 calls.
There is also a reluctance among the community to call 911 in the first place, she said. It is problematic that the pilot is not run by community groups, and instead uses NYPD 911 dispatchers to connect residents with the help they need, according to Lowenkron. Ultimately, it’s the police calling the shots about where the calls go, she said.
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